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UK election special: IT decision makers on how the next government can help the tech sector

The tech sector in the UK is booming. It currently employs over 1.7 million people and adds over £150bn to the economy each year. Despite these positive notes, there are some key challenges, such as the difficulty in attracting/retaining talent and funding challenges linked to high interest rates.

Being such a significant industry within the UK, it’s important that government policy and trajectory helps grow, rather than hinder our tech ecosystem. So, given we’re in the midst of UK general election fever, what does the next government need to do, to ensure we continue to have a healthy tech sector?

Who best to ask than people at the coalface, those working within the UK tech industry. We asked over 100 IT decision-makers (ITDMs) from our expert network, the Vanson Bourne Community, about what the next government needs to do to help foster growth. We covered topics from areas of focus/investment to infrastructure development to confidence in the next government to deliver this growth. And if you’re reading this after the 4th July, let’s hope [insert succeeding government] is able to deliver this for the country…

But first, what are the manifestos promising?

We all know that election manifestos are where political promises go to die, but they’re the best source of information we have about initial party policy plans. So, let’s briefly (they’re on average 20,000 words long after all…) dive into some of what the three main parties are saying about their plans for the UK’s tech sector:

The need for an AI-positive government

One of the clear trends emerging from our data (see also our latest AI Barometer results) is that AI will be front and centre of growth in the UK tech sector. When we asked what should be ‘turbo-charged’ to help tech sector growth, AI and advanced computing was 20% higher than the next industry. So, less turbo-charging, more adding a warp drive.

When we asked the one thing that the next government needs to do to nurture this growth, better governance and regulation around the use of AI was top. This was followed by a related focus, the need to plug the digital skills gap. These findings are echoed by the sentiment expressed by the U.K. and Ireland’s CEO of Salesforce, Zahra Bahrololoumi:

Innovation is heading very quickly towards autonomous AI. We need to have the skills in this country … to be able to adopt and use it in a responsible way, with the right controls and protocols.

Clearly, given the election manifesto pledges above, across the political spectrum, government policy will match the demands and focus of the tech sector.

The foundations of growth

The tech sector in the UK, to put it simply, cannot ‘organically grow’. There needs to be the correct infrastructure in place for it to flourish. After all, you can’t have a tech park operating on 90’s dial-up speed. As well as supporting businesses, we asked ITDMs what infrastructure the next government needs to invest in to foster growth with the sector.

Three clear infrastructure areas were highlighted by respondents: the need for full fibre networks, digital infrastructure for the public sector and renewable energy. The latter is an interesting one, particularly when we link this back to AI. Due to growing pressures to use AI, many organisations are now struggling to meet their net zero targets due to increased energy demands from running power hungry processes. Even the big tech giants are facing challenges, Microsoft’s emissions have jumped almost 30% as it continues to try and meet AI demand.

Confidence in the government

It’s all well and good the political parties talking a big game about what they’ll deliver for the tech sector when/if they come into power. But how confident are ITDMs in those in power actually delivering on that strong growth? Spoiler alert, not very. Over 65% of ITDMs surveyed said they were not at all confident that the next government could deliver on their lofty promises for the tech sector. This combined with extremely low levels of trust, just under a fifth of ITDMs trust the next government to be able to deliver, means a lot must be done by politicians to build up this confidence and trust amongst IT leaders. If this negativity is not placated, the strong growth we have seen in our tech sector could start to plateau…or even worse.

Whatever the result of the upcoming election on the 4th July, it’s clear the next government needs to place a strong emphasis on supporting and investing in the UK’s tech sector to help it continue to grow. With the rapid emergence of technologies like AI (research by Microsoft found AI could represent a £550bn opportunity for the UK over the next decade), and those on the horizon, such as quantum, our tech sector needs to stay agile and competitive to continue to remain strong. Only time will tell how effective the next government’s strategy is for the UK’s tech sector, but here’s to positive thinking.

 

Methodology

107 IT decision makers from across the UK were surveyed in June 2024. Respondents came from a range of sectors and organisation sizes.

From confidence to trust, pain points to priorities, talk to us about how bespoke research insights from IT leaders can help inform your decision making and enhance your marketing activities.